Wednesday, June 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

BKU agitation: Cong starts march
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Jind, June 11
Congress leaders today took part in the march to Delhi in protest against the Chautala-led Haryana Government’s high-handed methods for allegedly crushing the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in the state.

Thousands of Congress members led by Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, chief of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC), today started the march, which was slated to reach Delhi in 10 days’ time. Enroute, the marchers would halt at Narnaud, Hansi, Mundhal, Meham, Madina, Rohtak, Sampla, Bahadurgarh, and Nanglai.

On June 21 the HPCC will organise a rally in Delhi following which a memorandum will be presented to the President of India by the Congress leaders demanding dismissal of the Haryana Government and a CBI probe into the incidents of police firing on farmers in the district.

Mr Virender Singh, former HPCC chief, Ms Selja, former Union Minister, Mr Randeep Singh Surjewala, President of the All-India Youth Congress, and 15 of the 20 Congress MLAs were among those who took part in the march.

Mr Bhajan Lal, Leader of the Opposition in the Haryana Assembly, Mr Chander Mohan, Mr Balbirpal Shah, Ms Anita Yadav and Mr Mange Ram Gupta, who is also the local MLA, did not take part in the march today. Ms Selja, however, said Mr Bhajan Lal and the others who were not present today might participate at a later stage.

The marchers took their lunch at Ramrai village on the Jind-Hansi road, which is in the neighbourhood of Gulkani where five agitators had died in two separate incidents of police firing. They were received at Ramrai by a crowd of enthusiastic villagers.

Talking to reporters during the lunch, Mr Hooda said because of repeated instances of breach of promise by the Chautala-led government the farmers have completely lost faith in the Chief Minister. “The government may have been withdrawing the cases against BKU members, but the BKU is insisting on seeing the proof of government action because they do not believe the government’s words any more”, he said.

On Finance Minister Sampat Singh’s statement yesterday that why the Congress government in the past did not give compensation to farmers who died in police firing during their regimes, Mr Hooda said at that time the Opposition also did not press for any compensation.

“When the INLD is in the Opposition it incites the farmers to clash with the police and when it becomes the ruling party it itself fires at the farmers who are protesting against the INLD’s false promise of supplying power and water free of cost to farmers”, Mr Hooda said.

He also ridiculed Mr Chautala for accusing the Congress of arousing the farmers against the state government. “Till the other day, Mr Chautala used to say that there is no Opposition in Haryana. How come he has suddenly started finding the Congress’ hand in everything that is going wrong with the administration”, Mr Hooda asked.

“It is going to be a do-or-die battle if the President does not dismiss the government. We will still carry on with our struggle,” he said.

He expressed surprise over Mr Chautala’s going abroad when the state was in the grip of a crisis.

Mr Virender Singh, former HPCC chief, when asked about the police firing on farmers during the Congress regime, said no government should have fired upon innocent farmers.

A Congress spokesman said while Mr Hooda would be present throughout the march other Congress leaders would go to their own areas of influence in between and organise people for taking part in the pad yatra.

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